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Leave constitutional changes to next Congress — senator

CONGRESS should leave changes to the 1987 Constitution to the next administration, a senator said on Monday, noting that foreign ownership limits may be relaxed by law.

Charter change could also distract the government as it battles a coronavirus pandemic, Senator Franklin M. Drilon told an online news briefing.

“The perceived problem could be addressed by passing a bill. Changing the Constitution is unnecessary now,” he said in Filipino. “My suggestion is for the next Congress to make it its top legislative agenda,” he added.

Mr. Drilon cited pending bills seeking to encourage more foreign investors by amending the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and Public Service Act.

The first bill will cut the paid-up capital requirement for foreign retailers to $300,000 from as much as $7.5 million.

There’s also a measure seeking to allow more foreign ownership in certain sectors of the economy. The bill will exempt sectors identified under public services from the 40% foreign ownership limit imposed on public utilities.

Mr. Drilon said the next Congress should discuss whether constitutional amendments should be taken up by Congress as a constituent assembly or by electing delegates who will propose changes in a constitutional convention.

He said people don’t trust lawmakers to change the Charter themselves because of conflict of interest.

Attempts to amend the Constitution, a campaign promise of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, started in January 2018 when he formed a 22-member Constitutional Commission. The body, led by retired Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, drafted proposed amendments that were submitted to the 17th Congress.

Mr. Drilon also said foreign investors are also dissuaded by the country’s inconsistent laws, the peace and order situation, corruption and government red tape.

He also said he agrees with proposals to limit representation under the party-list system to marginalized sectors.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III on Monday filed a bill seeking to amend the Party-list Act.

Under Senate Bill 1989, the registration of a civic group may be canceled or rejected if it commits an act intended to overthrow the government.

Majority of the members of parties, organizations or coalitions should be marginalized and underrepresented, according to a copy of the bill. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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